Over the course of thirty years, Swedish based Meshuggah has gradually become not only one of the best underground bands in the metal genre, but also one of the most proficient and highly regarded bands to produce heavy music. The thought, precision and measure they use to produce music is consistently one step ahead of other metal bands while also maintaining a high level of craftsmanship. Today we delve into the sounds of this awesome band with the Top Ten songs by metal experimenters, Meshuggah
We kick off the countdown with one of the band's most experimental endeavors. Released in 2004, this one song, twenty plus minute EP wasn’t exactly met with huge accolades, but rather it furthered the outside the box thinking prevalent in the band. Over the course of the long meandering track, the band manage to meld multiple sections highlighting all their best aspects into a powerful, punishing track that only proves how ahead of the curve they are. Recorded in single takes, the tracks heaviness is only topped by the precise state of mind it takes to make this sort of thing a reality.
The first times I saw them open for Tool this song was the closer, and while the rest of the set was fitting, this song seems to just do well when presented as the last. It lumbers through cords, and drum beats, with the voice of Jens Kidman coming through like a disgruntled employee who simply can’t take it anymore. Musically it’s not much different from the other songs on this list, but it proves just how consistently heavy this band can be, and how with a perfect understanding of musicianship a band can truly stay above their contemporaries, for lack of a better word.
8. obZen, obZen
Many of their albums have familiar themes and subject matter, but musically “obZen” was a changing point for the band. It’s still heavy as hell, but with the incomparable Tomas Haake once again behind the kit, the band was free to go back to the brutal live sound they had initially cultivated. The record has a little bit more polish to it, and is a bit smoother around the edges, but even on the title track, it’s still extremely heavy and unforgiving. Like a murder in the cold of winter, the music of Meshuggah is unflinching and unafraid to take chances to propel the quality of the music.
7. Concatenation, Chaosphere
Even though the band has continued to excel and get more technical, the first time you’re exposed to the masterpiece of “Chaosphere,” it startles you. I did that to me for sure. I’d like to also mention there’s something so refreshing about listening and writing about this band at nine in the morning.”Concatenation,” the first track off the record, is an unrelenting torrent of technical guitar work, drums flying a mile a minute, and Kidman’s fully recognizable growl. Needless to say the record follows the pace set by this track pretty well, and if you want to make a mark and showcase your plan for a record, starting with a track like this pretty much gives you the only mission statement you need.
6. Future Breed Machine, Destroy Erase Improve
I came into the Meshuggah game relatively late I guess, so once the journey to the back catalogue began, what I found was that while they were growing in their technicality, they were always insanely heavy. This is felt most by number six on the best Meshuggah songs, “Future Breed Machine.” The song is more straightforward than the others that would come later, but you can still feel it having a different vibe from what was big in the metal genre at the time. I mean, that kick drum is just sick as hell, and frankly I can’t get enough.
5. Perpetual Black Second. Nothing
Musically the song has this weird drum thrash to it that remains for the entirety of the song, but I’ve always liked it, seeing as it reminds me of a musical bitch slap. That might be weird, so I’m sorry, but yeah. Anyway, the vocals are more punctuated to great results, and it melds well with the stop and start mechanics of the instrumentals. The song pulls at you in various ways, calling you to share in its “Perpetual Black Second,” and after a brief but awesome guitar section, the track delves right back into darkness and chaos continues to ensue.
4. the Mouth Licking What You’ve Bled, Chaosphere
I feel like there’s a lack of good words to describe this band's chaotic sounds. I’ve used so many already it’s actually becoming a struggle, but I digress. By far the shortest song presented here, but in no way is it any less technically sound. In fact it’s nearly the opposite. The guitars are really mindblowing, making mincemeat out of other bands with relative ease, and the breakdown at minute two moves the song into a whirlwind of sound and energy most bands can't touch. Number Four on the countdown, “The Mouth Licking What You’ve Bled,”off the band's breakout “Chaosphere.”
3. New Millennium Cyanide Christ. Chaosphere
For many people, this band was first exposed to them via the MTV “Osbournes.” If you recall, it’s one of the tracks Jack uses to taunt his horrible neighbor. Beyond that though the track is obviously well recorded, mixed and performed. Meshuggah isn’t known explicitly for background sounds or ambient noises, but “New Millennium Cyanide Christ” is a rare track that’s able to be full throttle, while also ramping up the scope of the capabilities of the band. Meshuggah is mostly a you get it or you don’t, and while not everyone is a fan of metal, the technical perfection in the band is something music snobs and especially musicians of all walks can admire.
2. Bleed, obZen
I once read a quote that paraphrased Meshuggah as being a band that the soldiers of hell would listen to before capturing Earth. To this day I’ve never heard a better description of this act. It just fits so well, and this song, while released after the quote was, is the best description of what that means. It’s almost like a metal grinder spinning out of control into a cyclone of chaos and drums. And yes, those aren’t drum machines, that’s a real fucking dude doing that, which is even more staggering. Like seriously, want more kick drums? “Bleed” remains one of the most brutal unapologetic songs I’ve ever heard, and seeing it live is just as remarkable.
1. Rational Gaze, Nothing
I got this record years ago for Christmas, and from that moment on, Rational Gaze,” from their major label debut after performing at Ozzfest, is brilliant in a way these other nine simply aren’t. The bounce qualities of the drums and bass are somewhat reminiscent of Pantera, but other than that this sounds like nothing except quintessential Meshuggah. It’s not the most in your face, and while it has somewhat of a crunchy bass and guitar line to it, that element makes the drudgery of the song more in line with the vision of the band. Sometimes you don’t need to be completely over the top heavy to be a great track, and with the excellent “Rational Gaze,” Meshuggah proves just that. Thanks for reading.
Landon Murray is a New Orleans native, who thrives on painting the world he interprets through the useful forms of all types of art he feels connected to. He's seen over 1000 bands, and had loved mostly every minute of it. He has an amazing 10 year old dog, and is loving life.
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